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US machinations in Iraq delay formation of government
More than six weeks after the December 15 election, and two weeks after the results were announced, there is still no new government in Iraq and one may not be formed for months. The election has produced a parliament divided along sectarian and ethnic lines and with no faction having a majority.
The parties most clearly identified with the US occupation suffered a debacle. The Iraqi National Congress of Ahmed Chalabi, who helped the Bush administration to fabricate many of its claims that the Hussein regime was assembling “weapons of mass destruction,” did not win a single seat. In the lead-up to the election, Chalabi was touted in sections of the US media as a potential prime minister.
The Iraqi National List led by longtime CIA asset Iyad Allawi—who was installed by the Bush administration as Iraq’s interim prime minister in 2004—won only 25 of the 275 seats despite a massive advertising campaign and barely concealed US backing.
The Shiite fundamentalist United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), which dominates the existing transitional government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, won 128 seats. The UIA seats were won primarily in Baghdad and the southern provinces where the majority of the population is Shiite.
The largest faction within the UIA is the Iranian-aligned Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), with Jaafari’s Da’awa movement gaining a smaller number of seats. SCIRI is calling for al-Jaafari to be replaced with one of its most prominent leaders, current vice-president Adel Abdul Mahdi. SCIRI has also insisted that it be given the main security ministries—defence and interior.
The large UIA vote in Baghdad was mainly due to the participation of supporters of the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The Sadrist movement took up arms against the US military in 2004 but subsequently joined the Shiite establishment in collaborating with the occupation in exchange for political posts and privileges. It has generally kept its mass base of support among Shiite workers and urban poor, however, by populist rhetoric against the US presence in the country and its denunciations of the tremendous poverty and deprivation confronting most Iraqis.